After suffering a gut-wrenching loss to Maine South last week, Montini needed to bounce back in Week 2, which would be no small feat considering the opponent.
Big, bad East St. Louis made the trip up with yet another roster of superstars, led by lineman Terry Beckner, ranked fourth-best senior in the nation by ESPN.
Despite spotting the Flyers 13 points early, No. 16 Montini showed what it was made of and rallied for a 46-32 win.
“It was a huge win, especially after the collapse that we had last week,” Montini coach Chris Andriano said. “I knew that it was going to be a test. Our kids passed, especially after falling behind early and coming back the way that we did. Our kids played a great game and they bounced back the way that I knew they would.”
East St. Louis (0-2) showed off its big-play ability early on. After a missed Montini field goal, the Flyers’ Natereace Strong zipped for an 80-yard touchdown on the next play. Four plays later, Montini (1-1) was forced to punt and Raekwon Griffin took it 80 yards to the house. Despite running only two offensive plays, East St. Louis was already up 13-0.
“We knew they were going to make big plays because they’re capable of that,” senior Montini receiver Leon Thornton III said. “They’ve got playmakers. We had to respond, and that’s what we did the whole game.”
Thornton’s 26-yard touchdown catch from Charles Norgle (25-for-36, 326 yards) with 6:10 left in the half left the Broncos down only 26-24 at the break.
When Thornton and Norgle connected again to start the third quarter, this time from 31 yards out, Montini took a 32-26 lead and never trailed again. Thornton (13 catches, 199 yards) also added a 26-yard touchdown on an option pass from Justin Blake.
“They’re going to be talking about Leon with Montini for a long time,” Andriano said. “He’s a special player. He had a huge game today. I’m so proud of him. He’s a big-time player. He proved it against a really good team.”
Strong carried the load for East St. Louis with 270 yards on 29 carries and two touchdowns. But he was held to only 62 yards in the second half as the Montini defense stiffened up and offense hit its stride.
“We just condensed our line down to take care of their big front,” Thornton said. “They have Terry Beckner, who is a wonderful player. He was giving us problems in the first half. We had to find a way to stop him.”
Last week’s loss was never far from the Broncos’ minds.
“It really gave us motivation,” Thornton said. “It gave us an extra chip on our shoulder that we really needed. We just used that extra motivation to come out and dominate today.”